Village Display Tips from Stephen Pepin

Stephen Pepin was in Department 56 headquarters recently to refresh, restyle, and infuse creativity to the showroom Village displays. Before formally starting to commission work for village displays in 2002, he began with a love for building model trains.

Stephen ShowroomWhat inspires him?

“The ability to create your own world with the pieces and scenes you arrange. Shelly’s Diner is my favorite Village piece because although the outside lighting is enticing, the scene inside of the diner adds an extra special touch. You truly feel like you’re observing a scene from the outside.”

56.55008We asked Stephen to share with us some tips based off of the most common questions. Stephen regularly provides the following 8 most helpful Village display creation guidelines:

1.) Using carving tools from The Hot Wire Foam Factory can create the smoother texture on the edges and makes cutting foam simple. They make a variety of blades and wires so that no piece of foam is too large or small to carve!

2.) Liquitex Spray Paint will be priceless in helping to create lifelike scenes with foam or other materials. Unlike most spray paints, Liquitex is water based meaning that there are not nearly as many chemicals to eat away at the foam. Bonus: it does not smell as potent as regular spray paints either.

IMG_21183.) Staying organized is extremely important! The Village pieces in your display will likely have different cords and adapters its essential to make sure you keep each cord or adapter with the proper piece. Organization will also make it easier when you’re arranging or rearranging your pieces.

4.) Rather than anchoring down your components right away, play around with position and find a place where they look best. Your initial spot may not be ideal. Moving the around will make it easier to decide where the optimal place to hide the cords would be as well.

5.) Take your time! There’s no need to rush, and an exciting village display is worth the effort. If you’re feeling stuck take a break by finding inspiration in nature, your surroundings, or checking out Department 56 on Youtube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

6.) Department 56 sells both moss and snow, which are perfect for adding to the display. For a more natural look use Woodland Scenics “blended turf”. The color and texture perfectly mimic grassy earth tones.


7.) Don’t ignore the smaller accessory pieces. Although the houses are important and the bulk of the display, the smaller accessory pieces like fencing, trees, street lights, or benches supplement the feeling of being transported into a different world.

8.) Don’t forget to have fun!


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The Ouija Board – Spiritualism, Fantasy or Fact?

The newest lit building in the Department 56 Snow Village Halloween is “Ouija The Mystifying Oracle”. The building looks like it could be part of the circus sideshow, on a side street in the seedier side of the city, or even on the carnival circuit. It has signs advertising palm reading, astrology and fortune telling. Even the “Amazing Zindelo” who sits in the entrance works the Ouija board to tell passersby what their future will hold. (each sold separately)

Want to Setup a Quick Halloween Village Display? Click the Video Below!

Ouija boards have their roots in Spiritualism, which began in the United States in the late 1840s even though there are claims that they have existed in ancient times, this is totally unfounded. The new movement was led by mediums, who claimed to be intermediaries between the living and the dead. They were also called Spirit Boards or Talking Boards. Players would put their fingers lightly on the heart-shaped piece called the planchette that mysteriously moved about the board to “talk” or spell out words that the spirits from beyond were trying to convey.

William FuldThe first patent for the game was issued to Elijah Bond in 1890 whose company produced the game for 10 years. An employee, William Fuld, took over production in 1901 and reinvented the whole concept.Fuld claimed he learned the name “Ouija” from using the board and that it was an ancient Egyptian word meaning “good luck.” When Fuld took over production he popularized the more widely accepted etymology: that the name came from a combination of the French and German words for “yes”.

Did you know?

That first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln held séances in the White House following the death of her son, Willie in 1862. It is thought that President Abraham Lincoln participated in some of these meetings. It is not known if they were ever able to contact Willie, and even less is known about what the president thought of spiritualism. Mary, however, was a firm believer.


The board’s success when it first was used, and now more than 120 years later shows that it has tapped into a weird place in American pop culture. It was marketed as both mystical oracle and as family entertainment, fun with an element of other-worldly excitement. The Ouija board appealed to people from across a wide spectrum of ages, professions, and education— because the Ouija board offered a fun way for people to believe in something. Researcher and Ouija historian Robert Mursch tells us “People want to believe. The need to believe that something else is out there is powerful,” he says. “This thing is one of those things that allows them to express that belief.”

And we predict that the new “Ouija:The Mystifying Oracle” will magically find a place in your Halloween Village display in 2016.

HASBRO and its logo OUIJA are trademarks of Hasbro used with permission. © 2016 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.

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Chow Town – In the Mood for Take-Out or Dine-In?

“Chow Town” is a new sub-series (started in 2014) within the very popular “Original Snow Village”. It is our homage to our favorite restaurants whether they are part of a popular chain like Dairy Queen, independently owned family establishments, diners, or one of the thousands of popular places that serve ethnic cuisine – German, Asian, Italian, Greek, or French cuisine. Which are your favorites?

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New this year is “Panda Palace” – third in the continuing series of fun buildings on our restaurant row. The pagoda style slate roof and heavy wooden front doors punctuate the Oriental style. Golden dragons, a symbol of luck, adorn the front windows. In 2015, we introduced “The Black Forest Restaurant”. Stop in for Oktoberfest or any other time of the year for authentic German fare.

Another favorite is “La Fiesta Restaurante”. With the growing popularity of Mexican cuisine, this quaint little restaurant is just the type you’d visit to get true, authentic Mexican food. Ole!

They say that 77% of all Americans eat ethnic foods at least once a week and many of us more often. Several recent and reputable surveys show that the most popular are Chinese, Mexican and Italian. Because Americans eat out so often, these choices are available through the country even though there are many regional favorites. The millennial generation of young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 are more likely to go a step further and try fusion food, like French – Vietnamese or Moroccan – Indian. However you sample it, food is a social experience and picking a restaurant can be challenging for couples and families with varying taste buds.


• Americans spend $1.7 billion per day on restaurant food alone.
• Other than the government, the restaurant industry employs more people (12.5 million) than any other industry in the United States.
• Salmon and shrimp are the most popular seafoods in American restaurants. In 2001, shrimp replaced canned tuna as America’s favorite seafood.
• More than 25% of all US adults had their first job in a restaurant.
• The most popular day of the week to eat out is Saturday and the least popular day is Monday.
• One of the most popular toppings on pizza in Brazil is green peas. (Really?)
• A popular doughnut flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts in South Korea is Glazed Garlic.
• McDonald’s sells 75 hamburgers every second of every day.

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Summertime Soft Serve with Dairy Queen

When soft-serve ice cream was first produced in 1938, there was no Dairy Queen. John “Grandpa” Fremont and Bradley McCullough developed the formula for this summer favorite and convinced a friend, Sherb Noble to test it in his Kankakee, IL, ice cream parlor. Noble sold 1,600 servings for 10¢ each in just two hours! The trial was a definite success! Because McCullough deemed that the cow was the queen of the dairy industry, name “Dairy Queen” was chosen. The first Dairy Queen ice cream stand opened in 1940 and today there are over 6,000 locations in 30 countries.

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Department 56 designed a ceramic version of one of the earliest ‘drive-in” versions to celebrate the 75th birthday of the company. A retro highway billboard designed to look like the drive-in is also available. Other cleverly designed accessories and a new North Pole “Cone House” have been added this summer. When used together, these pieces allow collectors to create a small stand-alone display, or add the pieces they like to their existing Village display.

Starting with the simple soft-serve cone with the trade-mark curly Q one top, Dairy Queen has developed a number of fan favorite frozen treats including the “Dilly Bar” (1955), “Peanut Buster Parfait” (1973), the Dairy Queen Cake (1981) and the “Blizzard” (1985). All of these, and more were inspiration for our designers to create a  collection of blown glass, hand painted ornaments and are available to enjoy on your Christmas tree (and they won’t melt!).

Did you know:

dq_vintageThe state where there are the most DQ franchises are located, is Texas.
• Dairy Queen was one of the first companies in the US to offer franchises of their business to prospective owners.
• Dairy Queen® soft serve contains 5% butter fat and has only 140 calories per creamy 1/2 cup.
• All Dairy Queen soft serve is stored at 18 degrees F rather than the normal 0 degrees that is required for regular ice cream products. This is why you can dig in to a DQ treat as soon as it is in your hands.
• The world’s largest Dairy Queen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The two-level restaurant is 7,500 square feet and can easily seat 240 customers.
• The number one selling Blizzard is Green Tea (sold only in China) followed by Oreo, a favorite here in the United States.


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